Thousands of little fish have been busy nibbling on the tired, calloused feet of delighted Ilonggos since the opening of Tibiao Fish Spa at the Lower Ground Floor of SM City Iloilo last October 20, 2010.
The fish are said to feed on the dead layers of skin cells of clients while at the same time stimulating pressure points to relax the body and release stress.
While some people are terrified at first that the treatment will hurt, they soon find out it’s actually very tickly which is why the fish spa is normally filled with laughter and occasional shrieks from thrilled guests.
Operations manager Rex Delsar Dianala, who co-owns the business, explained that laughter is still the best medicine.
“It’s good for you. Laughter relaxes the heart, boosts our immune system, and reduces the level of stress hormones. Plus, we all know it feels good to laugh especially in the company of our family and friends.”
“The tickly experience lasts for only a few minutes before the sensation of hundreds of fish nibbling on your feet like little masseurs will slide you into a deep sense of relaxation,” Dianala adds.
For those who really want to indulge in the “fishpalaxing” experience, Tibiao Fish Spa also offers a VIP service where you could sit on soft leather sofas while enjoying the fish therapy in a private curtained area supplied with warm lighting. They also have massage and reflexology services to complete your dose of relaxation.
- Classic Fish Spa
- VIP Fish Spa
A different kind of fish spa
While fish spas are not entirely new especially in Singapore and Malaysia where they have become very popular, Tibiao Fish Spa stands out because they use fish locally found in the town of Tibiao, in Antique where the business also opened its first branch just last year.
“Other fish spas use imported ‘Doctor Fish’ which are very expensive to acquire and maintain,” reveals General Manager Flord Nicson Calawag who is also one of the owners.
“That’s why we could offer our services at very affordable prices unlike other fish spas in the Philippines and abroad because we are now able to breed our own fish back in Antique.”
But other than the type of fish and the soft leather sofas, another of Tibiao Fish Spa’s innovations are the different sizes of fish stocked in separate tanks that clients could choose from.
“Our beginner tanks are stocked with small fish which gently nibble on our layers of dead skin cells,” explained Calawag. “Meanwhile, the larger fish in our extreme tanks do the heavy duty work of removing calluses and thicker patches of skin”
Technical Manager and Co-owner Noel Ferriols, also assures those worried about the idea of sharing water with strangers that they have nothing to worry about.
“While we change our water once to three times daily, we also employ a recirculating system that continuously subjects the water to sediment and activated carbon filters as well as UV sterilization. Plus you can imagine our fish are forever bathed in mouthwash since our water is slightly chlorinated.”
Opened due to insistent demand
Tibiao Fish Spa finally opened their permanent outlet in SM City Iloilo after frequent prodding from Ilonggo guests visiting their original Tibiao branch which is about a 4-hour drive from Iloilo City and 2 hours from Boracay.
“We started with a makeshift fish spa in a vacant space here in the mall, but when people kept coming back, we decided to stay,” revealed Ferriols.
Ferriols adds that since Tibiao Fish Spa opened in Iloilo City, not only locals have been coming to have their regular fish pedicure, but tourists from all over the continents have also been finding their way to the spa to experience the novel fish treatment.
“We are glad that our branch here in Iloilo City is slowly becoming a tourist destination in itself. It will surely complement the heritage buildings and the food for which the city is already known for.”
Calawag, Dianala, and Ferriols, who are college friends from the College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences of the University of the Philippines Visayas in Iloilo founded Tibiao Fish Spa last year with the aim of offering a new venue for recreation and relaxation for everyone at affordable prices.